You are currently viewing Threads of Heritage: The Timeless Art of Armenian Embroidery

Threads of Heritage: The Timeless Art of Armenian Embroidery

  • Post category:News

During the centuries of crossing needle and thread, mumbling melodies created in the highlands, Armenian women kept alive and taught their children the magic of needlework. Armenian embroidery has become a metaphor over the years: lives woven together in patterns that will inevitably change but are captured in the moment through a textile, photograph, or other artifact. Homes and homeland can be lost, but the culture still survives through the textiles carried by people or created in the diaspora to recapture that homeland.

Embroidery has been widespread in Armenia since ancient times and reached the peak of its development in the Middle Ages. This branch of applied art expresses religious ideas and beliefs from ancient times, aesthetic perceptions, preferred stylistic and compositional features for Armenians, and the never-ending variety of ornaments and knitting types.

History shows that traditional Armenian embroidery is divided into two main groups: mundane and ecclesiastical, which include the embroidery of costumes, church garments, and household items. There are various embroidery stitch types in Armenian embroidery, amazing in their variety. Both simple and complex embroideries are found. The sewing types have their names according to the dialect of the region. Armenians have several local embroideries, known by the city where they are most common.

Armenian embroidery is also rich in its jewelry system. The most common are the plant ornaments, which have been popular since ancient times. Plant images are very diverse and are found in embroidery, both in stylized and natural forms. Sometimes that styling is associated with embroidery techniques. However, it is mainly typical of the ancient period.

In addition to these basic ornaments, traditional Armenian embroidery is rich in other geometric, animal, and bird-like patterns, as well as images of household items (baskets, jugs, pitchers, etc.) and architectural monuments. Armenian embroidery traditions continue to this day. At the same time, there is a growing interest in embroidery around the world.

Understanding the importance of embroidery, rare techniques, and the phenomenon of these all being lost, MOSAIC partner TUMO Studios, which is a free educational program for young adults interested in crafts and design, decided to hold a permanent one-year technical course in Armenian embroidery to teach this magical craft to youth. As a result of this technical course, students learn the techniques of a number of Armenian embroidery schools under the guidance of Mariam Gharibyan, a well-known specialist in old traditional Armenian embroidery. Her whole life was dedicated to the recreation and recovery of the embroidery schools we lost through centuries.

For seven years, various young people at TUMO Studios have discovered unseen beauty, learned the hard techniques, and looked at embroidery from a new point of view. They have discovered embroidery schools such as Ourfa, Sebastia, Ayntap, Marash, and Van.

Ourfa Thread

Ourfa embroidery is flat, made with colored silk threads, sometimes with gold thread, on silk or cotton cloths, exclusively with floral patterns. With the aforementioned sewing and lace techniques, women and girls continue to create the most diverse items for everyday use: tablecloths, blankets, handkerchiefs, curtains, different parts of clothing, dowry accessories for young girls, the best samples of which are donated by women as a vow to the church.

Sebastia Thread

The embroidery style is named after the region of Sebastia, where it was predominantly practiced. It has roots in Armenian cultural traditions and has been passed down through generations. Traditional patterns often include geometric shapes, floral designs, and intricate borders. These motifs are not only decorative but also carry cultural and symbolic meanings.

The most famous of Sebastia stitches is the Sebastia-Swazi or Tars (backward) stitch. The ornament with colored threads shapes the cloth not from the surface, but from underneath, to get the desired pattern on the surface.

Historically, embroiderers used silk, wool, and metallic threads on fabrics like silk, linen, and cotton. The choice of materials and colors often depended on the intended use of the embroidered item and the status of the owner.

Marash Thread

Marash stitch is secret, also known as “woven” stitch. The thread operating in this pattern had a certain order of transitions, a mandatory path to form the simplest ornament. The working thread passed through the same line four times, with only the first and second rows attached to the cloth, and the last two rows woven over the first ones. Marash embroidery is made with twisted thin cotton threads, on cotton and velvet cloths, using geometric shapes, floral designs, and symbolic patterns.

Traditionally, embroiderers used silk, cotton, and metallic threads on various fabrics such as linen, silk, and cotton. The colors were often vibrant, with red, blue, green, and gold being popular choices.

Van Thread

Van’s thread is one of the oldest Armenian embroideries. It was widespread not only in Vaspurakan but also in Cilicia, Cappadocia, Tayk, and its surrounding areas, as well as in Constantinople.

Van was also famous for its types of lace. In the fine embroidered laces, ancient motifs of the universe, flora and fauna, and geometric motifs have been preserved.

Ayntap Thread

Ayntap stitch, the most delicate embroidery school, is a special type of threading, which is embroidered by removing the threads of the cloth in the direction of the width and length of the fabric and obtaining grids of the desired shape. It’s done together with a dumbbell and linear platformers and often features geometric designs, including diamonds, squares, and triangles, arranged in complex and symmetrical patterns.

Armenian embroidery is not just a craft; it’s a living testament to the resilience and creativity of the Armenian people. From the delicate Ayntap stitch to the vibrant colors of the Sebastia thread, each piece tells a story of tradition, culture, and artistic expression. As we continue to appreciate and revive these ancient techniques, we not only preserve a rich cultural heritage but also inspire a new generation to find beauty and meaning in the intricate art of embroidery. Whether you are an enthusiast, a budding artist, or someone simply interested in cultural history, exploring Armenian embroidery offers a window into a world where every stitch holds a piece of the past and a promise for the future.


Leave a Reply